Green instinct

Features - Research

The biophilic design movement provides the green industry a chance to play a vital role in the lives of millions.

December 11, 2019


Biophilia is our instinctive love of nature and it is influencing a design movement in buildings that make people healthier, improve their mental state and make them more productive. Plants — both inside and outside the building — play a starring role in biophilic design. The green industry has the chance to let plants be an everyday part of peoples’ lives, including where they work, live, heal and learn.

Biophilic design brings elements of the natural world into the built environment for improved well-being. Biophilic designed buildings incorporate things like natural lighting and ventilation, natural landscape features and other elements for creating a more productive and healthier built environment.

According to Green Plants for Green Buildings, (GPGB) companies like Etsy, Microsoft, Amazon and Airbnb “are bringing green office design to a new standard.” Those are certainly big names in commerce, but this principle can be adopted by small- and medium-sized businesses and commercial buildings of all sizes and types.

GPGB reports that introducing plants to the workplace lowered tension and anxiety levels by 37%, while reducing feelings of anger by 44%. Plants in the workplace also reduced fatigue by 38%. The green industry — from breeders and growers to retailers and landscape contractors — must share this information with building contractors, interior designers, business owners and the general public. Garden centers might consider hosting a class on the importance of plants in the workplace and include tips on how to keep plants alive on your desk. Breeders and growers could arm themselves with this information and attend an economic development meeting or speak to a group of contractors, explaining why plants inside and outside increases the value of their properties.

GPGB suggests incorporating biophilia into the workplace by:

  • Adding greenery, potted plants, living walls or flower gardens
  • Designing outdoor spaces, including staff gardens
  • Maximizing natural lighting
  • Using natural materials and colors
  • Incorporating water features, as well as naturalistic shapes and forms

Terrapin Bright Green, an environmental consulting firm based in New York City, reveals that biophilic design can be simple and not require a complete renovation, such as providing employees access to plants, natural views and daylight. These measures provide healthy returns that have a direct effect on a company’s bottom line. According to Terrapin, integrating views to nature into an office space can save more than $2,000 per employee per year in office costs, while more than $93 million can be saved annually in healthcare costs as a result of providing patients with views to nature. The company’s publication “The Economics of Biophilia: Why designing with nature in mind makes financial sense” notes that productivity costs are 112 times greater than energy costs in the workplace.

“We believe that incorporating nature into the built environment is not just a luxury, but a sound economic investment in health and productivity, based on well-researched neurological and physiological evidence,” according to the report.

Terrapin also reports that biophilia can re-engage losses from unproductive operating costs. “More than 90% of a company’s operating costs are linked to human resources, and financial losses due to absenteeism and presenteeism account for 4%,” Terrapin writes. “Commercial spaces that give occupants access to nature serve as a release to outside stresses and tend to cause less environmental stress themselves. It makes fiscal sense for companies to try to eliminate environmental stress that cost them thousands of dollars per year in employee costs.”

Healthier people, whether they’re in an office, hospital or school, equate to healthier profits. Leverage this vital information to get more plants inside and outside spaces throughout your community.

The author is editor of sister publication Nursery Management magazine.